Mage Academy Monsters, Magic and Mistletoe, Oh My — The Alchemist and an Amaretto by Annette Marie {ARC Book Review}

The Alchemist and an Amaretto by Annette Marie
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Title: The Alchemist and an Amaretto (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #5)
Author: Annette Marie
Publisher:
Dark Owl Fantasy
Release Date: October 11th, 2019
Standalone/Series: Series
Genre: New Adult – Urban Fantasy

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My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: NEW ALL-TIME FAVORITE

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

As a guild bartender, I can handle pretty much anything—mages, sorcerers, witches, the occasional demon. But show me anything family-related and I’d rather run for the hills. It doesn’t even have to be my family.

So I have no idea why I thought spending the holidays with Aaron’s mom and pop was a good idea.

Meeting his famous parents is already terrifying enough, but I’ve got a bigger problem. Students of his family’s renowned mage academy are being attacked on the grounds—and somehow no one has seen a single assailant? Unexplained tracks litter the nearby woods, rumors of forbidden alchemy are circulating the campus…and Ezra has been acting strangely since we arrived.

Something deadly is brewing in the shadow of Sinclair Academy, and the longer we take to uncover it, the more dangerous it becomes. But no matter the risk, we’ll protect the students.

And Aaron’s parents too, I suppose. If we have to.

THE GUILD CODEX

Spellbound Series:
Three Mages and a Margarita (#1)
Dark Arts and a Daiquiri (#2)
Two Witches and a Whiskey (#3)
Demon Magic and a Martini (#4)
The Alchemist and an Amaretto (#5)
Druid Vices and a Vodka (#6)

Demonized Series:
Taming Demons for Beginners (#1)
Slaying Monsters for the Feeble (#2)

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MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):

Note: I received an Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Some books stick with you. Even after you finish reading them and you’re back to going through your day-to-day routines, you find yourself thinking back to those books. You find yourself thinking back to certain scenes and smiling because you remember something funny. The characters become more than just fictional characters. They start to feel real somehow. You find yourself thinking what a certain character would do in a certain situation. That’s when you know you’ve read a special book. One that felt made just for you. And that’s what I’ve felt with every Annette Marie book so far, and especially with The Guild Codex series and Tori and her three mages.

The Alchemist and an Amaretto is already the fifth book in The Guild Codex: Spellbound series. Now usually, with TV shows, I’ve already long lost interest by the fifth season. Plot lines get convoluted, characters change unbelievably, romantic arcs get dragged out or pushed too fast and I just give up and instead reminisce about those glorious first seasons. So I was worried when I heard that The Guild Codex was planned for 8 books. I honestly thought I would have lost interest by now. But no. Quite the opposite in fact. The Guild Codex is that series that has always been solidly great. And yet with every single new book, I’ve become more and more invested in the story and attached to the characters that by now, by book five, I’m pretty certain this series will stick with me for a long, long time still. 

Though I’m keeping this review spoiler-free, which is hard to do for the fifth book in a series, I just want to quickly recap some of the things that make this series stand out to me.

Tori Dawson. Bad-ass human.
Tori is one of those main characters who couldn’t be more different from me. And yet, I feel like she and I could be great friends. She’s fierce and brave and now the three mages have got her working out daily (against her will, let that be clear), she’s getting even more bad-ass! Even though she may be a mere human girl who ended up working in a magical guild by accident, she can handle herself and stands her ground in scary situations. And she does it all with the necessary humor, sass and fun observational insights about her three hot friends.

The three mages. Hot, dark and electric. Literally.
The three mages. Though Tori likes to comment on their hotness, rest assured that though the three mages may be hot, they’re also so much more than just eye candy and are actually three unique and well-developed characters. We have Aaron, the fiery redhead, who we get to know so much better in this story as we visit his parents’ famous academy and get a glimpse of who Aaron was as a teenager. We have Kai, the electrical warrior-playboy with a heart of gold. Though Kai is not at the forefront in this fifth installment, he’s still such an important part of the story and still my favorite mage (don’t tell the others). And then there’s Ezra, the kind-hearted and good-humored mage with a dark past we are slowly unraveling. This is his book, as much as it is Aaron’s.

THE EPIC FRIENDSHIP! Make me cry, why don’t you.
I’m a sucker for friendships so let me try and explain this without turning in a rambling, sobbing mess. The friendship between Tori, Aaron, Kai and Ezra is PERFECTION. Whether it’s a fun, light-hearted scene full of banter and humor or a heartbreakingly raw and emotional scene, whenever these four are together the story just transcends written words and becomes real somehow. I can’t count the tears I shed because of them, both happy and emotional tears. The way these four characters have grown to rely on each other, support each other and lift each other up is the beating heart of this entire series.

The magical world. Worldbuilding at its finest.
You’d think that 5 books into a series, there’s not much left to cover, right? I mean, I did think that to be honest. Buy you’d be as wrong as I was. The world of The Guild Codex is so multi-faceted and complex, and with all the magical systems and creatures out there, there’s always more to discover. This time, we take a step away from our favorite Guild and spend time at Sinclair Academy, which is basically a bad-ass school for mages set in the woods, so hellooo dark and intriguing setting! Add in some well-known mythical creatures with a twist that fits perfectly and you’ve got all the ingredients for another fun adventure with Tori and the gang.

The humor. LOL for sure.
Sure, this series has its dark moments. But they’re balanced out with a lot of humor as well and that’s how I like it. From paintball fights taken a little too seriously to Tori trying to flirt and failing spectacularly, the story is filled with little moments that will have you giggling or snorting or at the very least smiling uncontrollably.

The romance. Make me cry, why don’t you, part 2.
From the start, it’s been clear that this would be a slow-burn romance. Though there have always been multiple possible options as to who could be a romantic interest for Tori, it remained an open question for a while. Which I say is cool, because as mentioned it’s the friendship that’s at the heart of this series, not the romance. But in this installment I believe we finally get some answers as to the romance and I can only say it seems to be building up to be a typical Annette Marie heartwrencher. It’s sweet, sexy and swoony but it’s also an emotional punch to the gut. Those ten little words near the end RUINED ME. Ruined me, I tell you! January 3rd can’t come soon enough.

Overall, I can’t recommend this series enough. Love urban fantasy with magical worldbuilding? Read The Guild Codex. Love spunky heroines who get things done without any magical superpowers? Read The Guild Codex. Love male characters that are as easy on the eyes as they are intriguing, deep and real? Read The Guild Codex. Love epic friendships and loads of scenes of friends being there for each other? Read The Guild Codex. Love slow-burn, heartwrenching yet swoony romances? Read The Guild Codex. I’m sure it’ll end up sticking with you too.

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Author bio:

Annette Marie
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Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.
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